By Comrade Bassim Chit:
The Demonstration was called by the Consultative Leftists Gathering (liqaa’ Yasari Tashawouri), Haraket Chaab, PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and the Nasserite Popular Gathering (Tajamou’ El Chaabi El Nasseri).
The Liqaa’ Yasari Tashawouir included the following forces: The Lebanese Communist Party, Revolutionary Communist Gathering (4th International) and the Leftist Assembly for Change (Revolutionary Socialists).
In a meeting for the Liqaa’ Tashawouri on Thursday the 21st of January 2010, it seemed obvious from the meeting that the CP has not been preparing for the demo.
The Leftist Assembly for Change with other university groups and independent activists with the Revolutionary Communist Gathering, have had been organizing public meetings for the past 2 weeks preparing for the demo, flyers and invites had been distributed in different areas of Beirut, university groups and clubs had managed to get a good momentum between university students.
On Friday 22nd of January, one the eve of the demo, we had organized a Film screening in T-Marbouta, more than 80 people showed up, it seemed that everyone was prepared for the demonstration taking place tomorrow.
Thursday 23rd of January 2010, We arrived to the demo at around 10.30 AM, there was no one there except the Police, who obviously came prepared, the first thing I remembered when i saw them out of the window of the car we were in, was that of the Egyptian policemen standing ready to repress.
It seems quite likely that both police forces have had the same Anti-Riot training!
We parked, took out copies of Al-Manshour and the placards, got out of the car, everything seemed in order. We could see other protesters coming from the other end of the street.
The weather was promising, it seemed that it would not rain before 2 or 3 hours. At 10.45 the demo was taking shape, as groups of people slowly joined the demo, it felt like an assembly, as delegations came one after the other. The protest had a fresh spirit and was somehow different than the other recent protests that were organized before in solidarity with Gaza.
This time the majority of protesters were independent, they were not "Party Standing Soldiers", but people who were mobilized politically and looked at the demo as their own creation, their own common strength.
Just before 11:00 AM, a group of around 30 people were marching from the Cola roundabout, holding a big Palestinian flag, the Protest had assembled, chants were more heard from the crowd, the party flags were a minority within the protest, taken over by ordinary people, our paper were being sold by the minute, later on that night, we counted the sales to be about 120 copies, around half of the demonstrators had bought a copy.
By 11:00 AM, the protest had assembled, between 200 to 250 protesters gathered in front of the Egyptian embassy in Beirut, standing between the passing cars and the anti-riot police.
Chants called Husni Moubarak (The Egyptian President) as a US and Israeli dog, followed by other chants calling to keep fight on, the mood was definitely building up.
About 11:30 AM a quarrel started between the CP Disciplinarians (Indibat) and protesters (including CP Members) about blocking the highway. One of these Indibat gave a punch to some of the protesters and started screaming at those who were attempting to block the highway.
On the other side of the protest the CP Leadership as well as the Haraket Chaab and Nasserite leaderships were giving speeches, while their party members were chanting: "We don't need speeches, we need Actions";
At the point it was obvious that the general mood had changed, we started calling people to take over the street, while some of us continued quarreling with the Indibat. The street was blocked, and one of the Indibat guys was still screaming in my face, another joined him, and said: "is it the role of the left to block streets and annoy passing cars?” For him, it seemed that the role of the left is to stand by the sidewalks and wave to passing cars!
Just a few minutes later, a Mercedes passed through the protest, nudging one of the protesters, a group of people followed the car and broke its glass, and surrounded the car. (I knew later that it was the car of one of the CP Indibat members/officers who was angrily storming out of the demo with his new and polished black Mercedes)
In a matter of seconds, I saw the angry dogs of the anti-riots police crashing on the protesters, they grabbed some of the protesters and started beating them and dragging them, instantly protesters gathered around the policemen and pulled their comrades away from the hands and fists of the mad policemen and army soldiers.
This continued for a few minutes, then the protesters re-assembled taking over the street again, pushing the policemen and the army soldiers back; chants said: "Askar 3ala Meen, Ya Askar" (Soldiers soldiering on whom? Oh Soldiers)
One policeman, started kicking people around with his boots, his ranking officer, tried to pull him away, he attempts a last kick at one of the cameras in hand of a protester and misses it.
The street was reclaimed, and protesters re-organized, the CP leadership was still keen on ending the demo, as well as the Haraket Chaab, but it was obvious that they lost control over the crowd, and a rebellion had apparently took place and the "Insurgents" had won.
The insurgents included everyone except the leadership of the CP, their Indibat guys, and The Haraket Chaab Leadership; everyone else was with the insurgents’ block.
Chants continued, now some chants said, "The Leadership is standing between us and Palestine". The CP and Haraket Chaab leadership retreated, protest songs continued.
At 12:20 PM, we were steadfast and the policemen had opened their cages (metal barriers) and the water canon was aimed, it was obvious that they were waiting to hit.
At 12:30 PM, it seemed that we should start Marching, it was clear that this protest must not be simply dispersed, a battle had been won, so we decided to march through the streets neighboring the embassy, made a long turn and then ending it in cola, as all protesters left together, promising the embassy and police an another visit soon.
Score: Protesters (1) | Police (0) | Mubarak (-1)
It was clear for everyone who attended the Demo, that the police and the defeatist attitude of the CP leadership had lost, and the will to keep the momentum of protest against the regimes had won.
On Monday, a meeting will take place to re-organize and to continue Mobilization for later demos, we had promised the Egyptian Regime and the Anti-Riot Police another Visit, and we keep our promises.
pictures by Matthew Cassel